The Gators lost their third straight game and have now started conference play 0-3 for the first time in 40 years with a 64-58 loss to LSU Wednesday night. Behind poor free throw shooting down the stretch, not taking advantage of key chances and defensive lapses late in the shot clock, it all came together into a vintage Mike White era collapse. There is no beating around the bush anymore: Mike White has to be fired. He is not a good major college basketball coach and it shows in these big games.
Florida struggled with LSU's length and defensive pressure in the first half but fought their way into the locker room down just 38-30. At the break, the Gators had 8 turnovers and were shooting 41.7% from the field and 23.1% from behind the arc. Castleton lead the way with 10 points and 3 rebounds for Florida, but he was about the only thing going offensively in the 1st period as poor 3 point shooting and not having any real threats to create hurt the Gators. The Tigers were up at the break but didn't have their best half either offensively, with Gainesville native Darius Days leading the way with 12 points and 4 rebounds. Most of LSU's offense was coming late in the shot clock or on the break but it was their defense that was making the difference.
In the second half, Florida fought back. After a slow start, they knocked down a few 3's and were getting to the rim effectively. This was needed, as LSU was doubling Florida center Colin Castleton virtually every possession down and daring the Gators to take 3's. And while they weren't knocking them down at a high clip, it made a difference. The turning point for the Gators was when LSU forward Tari Eason fouled out with 14:08 left in the game, followed by center Efton Reid at the 7:16 mark. This gave Florida the opportunity to feed Castleton with those two out and they did. However, he can't do it all and Florida's inability to knock down the 3 ball at a high rate and not having anyone who can go 1-on-1 off the dribble for a bucket consistently hindered them all game.
When it got down the stretch of that game, the Gators did anything but make the big plays. There were numerous times where the Gators would cut it to a one possession game and then give up a bucket on their end, often times late in the shot clock. On top of this, the Gators free throw shooting was porous late in the game, shooting 4-11 in the final 10 minutes from the stripe and 11-22 for the game as a team. This has been something that has plagued them all year and it cost them the game tonight.
There is no more waiting, no more "give him another year to figure it out with this team", no more sugar coating it: Mike White has to be fired NOW. Not after this season, not after next year, now. There is nothing that is going to change under him. We have seen all we will see out of Mike White. That includes failing to develop high-level talent effectively (Scottie Lewis, Omar Payne, Samson Ruzhentsev, so far Kowacie Reeves), below average offensive output, constant late game collapses and early NCAA Tournament exits. These are the things that have become the norm under Mike White. These are the things that we as Gator fans have come to expect year in and year out under him. And I'm sick of it. It should never be that way.
Billy Donovan established a culture here, a certain level of excellence and we should never lose those expectations or lower the bar for anyone. We should never expect mediocrity with this program or be forced to accept it. And that is what has happened under Mike White and that is the primary reason he shouldn't be here anymore. As a writer for a Florida Gators fans podcast, I believe that I should be the voice of the fan base and I know that the majority of the Gator nation agrees with me and sees what I see. And if something doesn't change soon we are in for a long, long road down the hole of mediocrity, something that has been the case for seven years now.
Scott Stricklin, wherever you are and wherever you have been hiding the past few months I'm begging you to come out and face the music. Because this is not acceptable at the University of Florida and to the fans that love this school. I hope you fix it before it is too late for us, because time is running out.